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Ofcom report: Brits opt for new media

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LONDON -- British consumers now spend 50 hours per week on the phone, surfing the Internet, watching television or listening to the radio, but less of that total is being spent with the TV and they're paying less for their media services as prices continue to fall, new research indicates.

The report, published Thursday by media regulator Ofcom, provides an update on the U.K.'s £50 billion ($100 billion) electronic communications sector.

Ofcom found that average daily Internet use in 2006 (36 minutes) was up 158% from 2002, and time spent on mobile phones (almost 4 minutes per day) was up 58%, while the total time spent watching TV was down 4%, at 3 hours and 36 minutes.

But while consumers are getting more out of their communications services, the amount they are spending on them continues to fall as intense competition from such suppliers as Sky, BT Vision, Freeview, Tiscali TV and Virgin Media drives down prices.

In 2006, average household expenditure on communications services was £92.65 ($186) per month, down from £94.03 in 2005.

Younger demographics are driving communications growth as the range of services and devices now available to 8- to 15-year-olds here transforms what children do with their time.

More than 75% of 11-year-olds now have their own television, game console and mobile phone, while 5% of 13- to 15-year-olds and 7% of 10-year-olds also have a webcam.

The shift toward mobile and online activities has resulted in a decline in playing console and computer games (61% regularly did so in 2005, compared with 53% as of March), and watching videos and DVDs (59% did so regularly in 2005 vs. 38% in March).

Instead, they are using their mobile phones more often (50% regularly did so in 2005 compared with 53% in March), surfing the Internet (47% regularly in 2005 to 52%) and using MP3 players (20% regularly in 2005 to 28%).

Older people also are consuming more media. The so-called "silver surfers" (older than 55) spend an average of 42 hours online every month and are the biggest age demographic to use the Web. Far from being just a young person's technology, one-quarter of all British Internet users are older than 50, and the over-50s account for 30% of total time spent online.

Digital television use also is growing and is now in 80.5% of U.K. homes. High-definition television is another growth area and, in the 450,000 homes that have it, 33% of viewing time is spent watching in HD.

More than 40% of those surveyed said that they watch more television -- especially premium content such as films and sports -- as a result of having HD.

Traditional television is still suffering a slump in advertising, however, with total U.K. television advertising revenue down 2.2% in 2006 to £3.5 billion ($7 billion), the first drop since 2002.

The decline in advertising revenue coincides with greater availability and use of television-style content online and the growth of digital video recorders. The report found that up to 78% of DVR owners regularly used them to skip ads.